The first thing I need to say is that I am not an American. I have no “right to bear arms” and our local grocery store doesn’t sell bullets. So, I give you permission to stop reading here if you like. I don’t understand what it’s like to live under the Constitution, and the freedom that entails, because I live in a monarchy and our laws are outdated in a lot of ways. If I wanted to shoot a Welsh person with a longbow in Chester, I would be within my rights as long as it was after midnight. So it’s fair to say I may have a different perspective.
But isn’t the Second Amendment itself a bit outdated? Now that America has been settled, is there any need for people to form militia? Are they still necessary to the “security of a free state”? You have the police for that, and the US military and the CIA…US citizens no longer need vigilante justice. And without vigilantism, is there really a need to bear arms?
But I understand that it is more than just a constitutional right, it is part of the American culture. Over here, we wouldn’t be happy if the legal drinking age was raised to 21. It may be better for public health and would save the NHS money, but we would all feel affronted that teenagers’ right to drink had been taken away. The argument goes that legislation is pointless – the teenagers will find a way to drink anyway. Just look how well prohibition worked. And the same can be said for gun laws – if you outlaw them, you’re only driving the gun trade underground. Isn’t it better to regulate who can and can’t own a gun?
But bear in mind that background checks for owning firearms are relatively new. Only 20 years, anyone could own a gun and the Brady Bill was only passed after 6 years of opposition from the NRA. And the law is relatively ineffective – only 1.8% of applications were blocked from 1994 through 2009 (1.9 million out of 107 million). So,
the NRA don’t want regulation and regulation doesn’t seem to be working. A study by Philip J Cook, of Duke University in 2003 showed that the Brady Bill had had “no statistically significant effect” on the number of gun homicides. So if regulating the gun trade’s not the answer, what is?
And yes, America you need an answer. I’m not going to emote about all the reasons that you need gun control – the memories of Sandy Hook are fresh for all of us – but things can’t go on like this. The problem with background checks that can be done on a computer (as per the 1998 amendment) is that they only have binary answers – “does this person have a history of mental illness? Yes/no.” But how many mental illnesses remain undiagnosed? The U.S. Surgeon General’s report on mental health says that nearly half of Americans with a severe mental illness fail to get treatment, so therefore wouldn’t show up on a background check. And even those with confirmed psychiatric disorders – like Adam Lanza – can still get their hands on a gun, thanks to laws that allow a “prepper” like Nancy Lanza to stockpile weapons in her house. Clearly she passed the background checks, but does someone so obsessed with Doomsday that she builds a small arsenal really qualify as mentally sound?
So regulation misses the people it’s meant to target, therefore it’s safe to say that the legal gun trade is not working. Yes, an underground gun trade would be dangerous but at least legislation would send a clear message out that gun ownership was no longer a right and mentally ill people in possession of deadly weapons would rightly expect to lose their liberty. The question is whether an ancient constitutional right is more important than the future of the nation.
Think on it, America.